In New York City’s tabloid newspapers and on blogs, they have been derided as “clown cars.” The previous police commissioner, William J. Bratton, described the subcompacts as “midget cars,” even as he announced their rollout last year.
But the city cannot seem to get enough of the tiny, bean-shaped vehicles, which look like curiously shrunken cousins of the iconic New York Police Department patrol car and which never fail to draw the attention, and sometimes the affection, of curious passers-by.
So despite the quips, and in part because of them, the agency is rolling out even more of the little vehicles, which are outfitted with red and blue lights and the insignia of the Police Department.
The two-seat Smart Fortwos are taking the place of three-wheeled scooters that for decades have had their own peculiar place in the city’s vast fleet of otherwise muscular police vehicles, the New York Times reports.
The Smart cars, though, are safer, cheaper and easier to operate. The officers appreciate the air-conditioning. There is also another unexpected benefit: As the Police Department has sought to project its friendlier side in an era of low crime, the Smart car has been an effective icebreaker.
Among the department’s fleet of thousands of vehicles, including Ford Explorers racing to 911 calls and tow trucks clearing traffic lanes during the evening rush, the Smart car is quite possibly the only one that has its picture routinely shared on social media, described as “adorable” or, in the case of one parked in the West Village, “Cuuuuuute.”